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As part of the preparation for writing my article on black powder guns for the Gun Digest Annual, I have been developing heavy hunting loads for the stainless steel Buffalo revolver with a 12-inch barrel imported by Cabelas and the discontinued Ruger Old Army. These muzzleloading, percussion revolvers have top straps, like the 1858 Remington, adjustable sights, and solid frames. They represent, in my opinion, the most capable muzzleloading revolvers that are/were commercially available.
Using Hodgdon’s Triple Seven powder and both round ball and elongate bullets, I have confirmed the findings of others that these components in strongly-built guns will closely approach or exceed the 500 ft. lbs. of muzzle energy generally stated as being the threshold value for killing deer-sized game. In the case of the Pietta revolver, this round ball load developed 470 ft. lbs. from its long barrel. Although a 240 grain elongate bullet did exceed the 500 ft. lbs. threshold, it is too inaccurate with this gun’s slow-twist barrel to meet my requirements.
My first test on live targets for round-ball rifles and handguns is to take them squirrel hunting. If I can consistently shoot squirrels with the loads, then they are certainly accurate enough to kill deer. I use my deer-powered loads for everything to keep from having to remember to hold over or under the game and to accustom myself to the handling characteristics of the gun. I once had considerable trouble with Cantank, a .45-caliber flintlock rifle. Ultimately I developed a load consisting of 85 grains of FFg black powder, an over powder Wonder Wad and Cream of Wheat filler loaded under a lubricated patched .440 round ball. This load nailed seven squirrels in a row and has subsequently taken two deer and most recently a wild turkey.
The Pietta revolver, loaded with round ball, had already been on two squirrel hunts. but this season’s very dry weather produced no shot opportunities. Archery season arrived and under a recently enacted piece of Georgia Legislation, holders of concealed handgun carry permits may also take handguns to their deer stands during archery season, although they may not use them to shoot deer. On my fourth trip out this season I walked out to where I already had my stand and crossbow pre-positioned and carried the Pietta revolver on the mile trip to my hunting location.
As I hunt literally, in my back yard, I walk to my stands to keep vehicles out of my woods during hunting season as well as to obtain some useful exercise for someone who spends hours a day sitting at a keyboard. This morning I was a bit quieter that usual in that I was not dragging a sled or carrying a tree stand.
Not quite 100 yards from the edge of my yard I heard a squirrel chattering at me from one of a number of old oak trees that formed an old hedgerow. Drawing my pistol from my holster I quietly retraced my steps. Although the trees are still green and in full green leaf, I ultimately spotted him sitting on a limb about 20-yards away.
I took off my glasses (because I see iron sights better without them), and holding the long gun with both hands took an off-hand shot. Immediately following there was the solid thunk of the ball hitting the tree behind the squirrel and the plop of the squirrel hitting the ground. The Buffalo Revolver had taken its first game. The ball had caught the squirrel in a portion of the head and killed it instantly. One thing about using these heavy loads on squirrels, is that you seldom have to shoot them twice. And no, they do not “blow them to pieces.” The balls just punch a .44-caliber hole through the animal.
This was not an unusual activity for me. I had commonly take squirrels with the Ruger Old Army as well as with a variety of other .30-.50 caliber muzzleloading handguns. What followed was, that I had to clean the gun. I removed the cylinder, took the caps off the other chambers, removed the nipple and used brushes, rags, water and rubbing alcohol to clean the chamber. This saved the other four loads. (I only load five chambers and carry on an empty one.) The barrel was also cleaned and the frame whipped down with a wet rag followed by one soaked in alcohol. After everything was throughly dry the next morning, the chamber was reloaded and the gun reassembled.
A couple of times a season, usually after a rain, I will go out and it seems that every tree will be full of squirrels. More usually I will collect one or two a trip, as I did here. When I get a half-dozen, these often go to make squirrel dumplings. I have a YouTube video on cleaning squirrels at: http://youtu.be/nOfhw1ZqTIw and another on making squirrel dumplings at: http://youtu.b0e/nOfhw1ZqTIw. In addition, I have recipes for squirrel stew and other wild game dishes in my books including Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound which you can find on my website at www.hoveysmith.com or order from Amazon.com and other E-retail book outlets.
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